MSR's Pocket-Sized TrailShot Water Filter - Review

Jul 24, 2017 at 22:36
by Mike Kazimer  
MSR TrailShot review


Clean water is one of those amenities many of us take for granted – we turn on the faucet, fill up our water bottles, and head out for a ride without a second thought, confident that the water coming out of the tap is free from any malicious creepy-crawlies. It's a different story when you're outside, away from pre-treated water; even the most innocuous looking streams can harbor all sorts of nasty bacteria just waiting to wreak havoc on your insides.

The MSR TrailShot filter is designed to make drinking water out on the trail less of a game of Russian roulette, all without taking up much room in your pack or jersey. According to MSR, it meets U.S. EPA drinking water standards and NSF protocol P231 for removal of bacteria (99.9999%), protozoa (99.9%), and particulates.

MSR TrailShot Details
• Hollow fiber filter; pore size: .2 micron
• Flow rate: 1 liter per minute
• Effective against bacteria, protozoa, and particulates
• Cartridge life: 2,000 liters
• Weight: 159 grams
• Made in USA
• MSRP: $49.95 USD
www.msrgear.com

Slightly bigger than the bulb used to inflate a blood pressure cuff, the TrailShot weighs a scant 159 grams, costs $49.99 USD, and can filter one liter of water per minute. There are some very reasonable limits to what it will remove – it won't make seawater drinkable, or protect you from radiation, something to keep in mind if you get thirsty while riding through a Superfund site.


MSR TrailShot review
The screen on the prefilter keeps larger particles from getting into the plastic tube.
MSR TrailShot review
The TrailShot uses hollow fibers that have microscopic pores to filter the water as it's forced through the replaceable cartridge.


Operation

If you can make a fist, you can operate the TrailShot. All that's necessary is placing the prefilter – the red-tipped end of the hose – into the water source, squeezing the bulb 10 times to prime the system and then continuing to squeeze the bulb to fill up your water bottle, hydration bladder, or mouth. It's that simple. MSR recommends cleaning the filter cartridge every 8 liters, a process that only takes a minute or two. The cartridge should last for 2,000 liters of water, and when it does come time to replace it, a new one goes for $34.99 USD.


MSR TrailShot review
MSR TrailShot review
The TrailShot takes up about as much room as a large avocado, and can easily be cleaned or serviced in a matter of minutes if necessary.


Views: 6,440    Faves: 6    Comments: 3



Performance

These days, I try to avoid wearing a backpack at all costs in order to keep my neck and shoulders happy. Even on longer rides I can usually get by with a hip pack and a water bottle or two, but that program gets a little trickier during hot summer weather, when it's difficult to carry enough fluid to keep up with the amount of sweat I'm producing. There's also the fact that there are still a number of bikes out there that won't accomodate a water bottle, or if they can, it's mounted on the downtube, directly in the line of fire from whatever squishy grossness you run over. That's where the TrailShot comes in – its small size makes it easy to stick into a hip pack or jersey / bib shorts pocket, and then use it to refill a water bottle over the course of a ride, or use like a personal water fountain and drink directly from it. Of course, you'll need to know that there's a water source at some point on your ride, but I'm fortunate to live in an area where streams, lakes, and rivers are plentiful.

The TrailShot is dead simple to operate, and its filtering speed matches MSR's claims – a minute or two of squeezing and you've got a bottle full of drinkable water. The amount of water that's produced per squeeze is impressive, and the amount of effort required is minimal. So does the filter actually work? Well, I've been using it regularly for the last few months to drink out of a variety of water sources, and I'm happy to report that I don't seem to have picked up any new organisms in my intestines – that's a win in my book.


Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesSimple, effective, and very reasonably priced, the TrailShot is highly recommended for anyone who spends time outdoors. After all, wouldn't you rather be out riding instead of sitting in a doctor's office because you decided to forgo filtering and drank from a contaminated stream? Mike Kazimer

96 Comments

  • + 161
 "The TrailShot takes up about as much room as a large avocado, and can easily be cleaned or serviced in a matter of minutes if necessary." Well this puts it into perspective for me perfectly, I often carry a large avocado in my jersey pocket on a long ride. Unfortunately I'm not willing to sacrifice this for clean drinking water. So wont be purchasing.
  • + 80
 i usually keep two avocados in my chamois that can easily be serviced in a matter of minutes (or seconds if there's a westerly breeze), too.
  • + 14
 haha, I've actually carried an avocado on a ride before. Yummy snack! fared better than the bananas!
  • + 20
 "Is that avocado in your pocket or are you just happy to see me, sailor?"
  • + 4
 Hahahaha... Sorry just had to laugh about the Avacado, we should give some of these to people in countries that need clean water too ehh? ehh?!? ;p That Avacado tho! #mynewtrailsnack
  • + 74
 If I cycled to the trails I could use the TrailShot to keep me well hydrated on the way. But I avacado, so I drive.
  • + 1
 @allballz: glad u asked, I have two right here you see..go ahead, put it in it mouth
  • + 6
 Ideal for bikepacking though. Even backpacking. I'm stoked.
  • + 12
 If I was riding the Whole Enchilada, then I would definitely pack the avocado as well.
  • + 4
 @Asgardeh: very, very well played!!
  • + 1
 He used avocado for hipster street cred, an apple or orange was just to plain.
  • + 2
 I've been using a Lifestraw for years on big hiking/"enduro" trips. Water quality is good but please keep in mind it doesn't filter out chemicals and heavy metals so use is limited to streams close to the source, not in farming areas etc.
  • + 0
 Sawyer Mini Water Filters last 30x, weigh 46 grams less and are roughly 1/2 the size of a medium sized avocado.
  • + 52
 If you just piss in it you have a never ending supply of water.
  • + 12
 waterception!
  • + 25
 you broke thermodynamics. congrats.
  • + 17
 you will miss all the electrolytes tho -Bear Grills
  • + 11
 @JoseBravo: a handfull of loam and you're ok
  • + 31
 To make sure it's absolutely safe I only drink beer. I never stray away too much from any beer stream, just to be safe.
  • + 5
 I only ride where there are micro craft brew triple IPA streams.
  • + 4
 @rewob: You're one lucky snob. I mean; you're one lucky SOB
  • + 19
 I have one of these and have used it a few times. It takes up very little space and works extremely well.
  • + 15
 I've been using one of these for a few years. sawyer.com/products/sawyer-mini-filter Very similar system and same filtration technology. We should all be learning from ultralight backpackers and carry less water. Filters weigh much less than a bottle of water.
  • + 1
 That's what I use too. Cheaper, smaller, needs less maintenance.
  • + 3
 Totally agree on carrying less water. Filters are great for camping, but a few iodine tabs in your first aid kit can get you through pretty much any day that you are near a water source, and weigh essentially nothing. Cheap, too!
  • + 12
 obviously you guys don't ride in the desert often.
  • + 4
 I use a steripen ultra. It's small light and no filters. Just make sure you have it charged. And no, it does not go in your bum.
www.steripen.com/ultra
  • + 29
 @wcjrush: not with that attitude
  • + 3
 @adrennan: haha. I know right! Such a shitty tude about it.
  • + 6
 @VtVolk: if you put iodine tablets in shit-ass water, you'll have safe to drink shit-ass water. I'll go with a filter, thanks.
  • + 2
 @VtVolk: I agree Iodine are good for the first aid kit in an emergency but they do not kill Cryptosporidium and also require that you wait at least 30 min. before drinking the treated water.
  • + 1
 Another vote for the Sawyer Mini Filter, that is what we use for bikepacking in BC & Washington.
  • + 18
 Yeah sure but does it filter out the flouride that makes frogs gay?
  • + 10
 Great product. I've been using the MSR Micro for several years now, in the back country and it's great to use and maintain. This is definitely a must have for those of us who ride in the woods away from amenities.
  • + 7
 MSR makes quality stuff. Been using their Dromedary and Dromlite bags for years camping. I definitely like this setup better than the straw type filters from Sawyer or Lifestraw. I carry a Sawyer on really long rides if I'm unsure about water access but they're not ideal for filling a water bottle. This looks way easier
  • + 8
 Everybody filtering water abroad?
When riding trails in the alps you have best water quality, it's like drinking Evian all the time, no need to filter, lucky us Europeans.
  • + 4
 The Alps aren't the best example to present as a general rule of "the water is safe to drink" - so many places in the mountains in Europe are used for grazing cattle, sheep and goats, and stream water below pasture is typically full of poo.

As long as you're drinking spring water not stream water or above the highest pasture level you're usually fine - but of course the same applies in just about any part of the world.

If you really want clean water, come to Tasmania. I've been on multi day hikes carrying only a cup for drinking, with an empty water bladder in my pack just for convenience at campsites.
  • + 2
 @dsut4392: Twaddle. I got giardia drinking water somewhere near Lake Elysia.
  • + 3
 @iamamodel: Pretty high traffic area (for Tassie) there. I have heard of people getting sick after drinking water near W Arthurs campsites too (decades ago before they all got toilet buckets). Confirmed giardia cases are rare even though it's proven native mammals can carry it, but one would be silly to think E. Coli isn't floating around near every popular camp spot. You can be unlucky (or unwise) about where you drink from, but I still think you're much safer here than in most parts of Europe.

Even the busiest areas in Tassie are deserted compared to popular places in the European Alps. On a warm summer day in the Labyrinth you might bump into 25 people, whereas at many of the places I have been in Europe (counting spots in Swiss, French, Austrian, Italian, Slovenian alps, Dolomites, Spanish Picos de Europa), you will have that many people _within sight_ at any given time. You might think having that many people around means nobody ever takes a dump, but this thought will be sadly corrected the first time you try to find a sheltered and secluded spot to have lunch only to find it littered with toilet paper. Don't lift any large rocks :-P
  • + 4
 " So does the filter actually work? Well, I've been using it regularly for the last few months to drink out of a variety of water sources, and I'm happy to report that I don't seem to have picked up any new organisms in my intestines"

Well. for like 25 years I have been regularly drinking water from multiple streams in mountains and never felt I have picked any new organisms. What does it prove? Do I have a builtin filter? I have to ask my mum Wink
  • + 4
 I ran out of water yeaterday having taken a 3l bladder and I felt a little irate about it. In my garage I have two Katadyn filters that are the size of a coke can. As I rode along dehydrating in the 25 degree heat, it got me thinking that they are a lot smaller and lighter than a litre of water. It occured to me that I might start hauling it on longer rides. As my 3l Osprey bladder is about done, it will also save me a fortune as I only need to buy a 1l one so thats 2kg less in water to carry (+250g for filter).
Winner winner chicken dinner.
  • + 1
 buy a Sawyer mini. smaller, lighter, cheap, & probably has a much longer filter life than a katadyn.
  • + 3
 Ok here is what I want to know.

How safe is this really??

If I was de hydrating in a jungle and all I had was this and a muddy/stagnant brown puddle with mosquitos humming around it , would I live and not die of bad aids?
  • + 3
 doesn't filter out viruses, and a really muddy water will likely clog the filter before you can filter too much
  • + 2
 Using a standard MSR filter, I once spent a week in the Utah desert drinking from a muddy slurry that was barely liquid. The nastier the water, the more frequently you have to clean off the filter element, but the water the filter produces is super clean. They're amazing.
  • + 3
 If you were in that situation, you would drink the crappy water regardless. For all other normal situations, this should be fine.
  • + 1
 People use this level all the time for bc camping all the time so overall quite safe. If you want something similar it's but chemical you can get purification tabs but many people choose the filter because it has more predictable performance at all temperatures and in cloudy water
  • + 2
 A water filter does not make any/all water safe to drink. A water filter OR a water purifier is selected based on where you are traveling. My understanding is that for pretty much any third world country a purifier is a necessity.
  • + 2
 @GalenS: I've used that same MSR filter in rural Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras to filter tap water from lots of sketchy places. I never got sick, while traveling companions who didn't use it did. Obviously not a scientific study, but I trust it 100%.
  • + 1
 @slothracing: great read. I'm not trusting one. Purifier all the way
  • + 5
 I want to click on the video but all the ankle flesh is NSFW. Put some damn socks on!!!
  • + 3
 Best thing I ever did was throw a little water filter into my pack. A lot of hot summer days have been mitigated by stopping by a stream somewhere and filling my pack with cold water.
  • + 3
 This. I use a Sawyer filter. Super small, works great.
  • + 2
 am ordering this ASAP. I do tours in Jamaica and the water is contaminated by flooding or heavy rains so their water is loaded with chlorine, etc. When in the bush digging I can trust this devise for natural spring water. That spring water is usually tainted with bovine bacteria and other nasty stuff. The size is lust worthy for my backpack.
  • + 5
 yeah i only ride park so when I'm thirsty i go to starbucks in whistler.
  • + 4
 sawyer.com/products/sawyer-mini-filter

Available at walmart... $19.99
  • + 4
 I use the sawyer mini. Works real well too and its about half as much and more versatile IMHO.
  • + 2
 Been using one of these collapsible built in bottle filters for a while: www.backcountry.com/katadyn-befree-water-filtration-system

Second someone builds one into a standard bike bottle cap I'll buy it.
  • + 3
 Come test that thing in some stagnant summer SoCal streams and then lets talk. Until then I wouldn't trust it for my local rides.
  • + 10
 plus you might have to ask Nestle for permission.....
  • + 3
 @atrokz: chuckle
  • + 1
 Pristine 30ml water treatment

effective against viruses, bacteria, and protozoa
Weight: 70g

Doesn't clog, no pumping.

www.mec.ca/en/product/4012-604/ClO2-30ml-Water-Treatment
  • + 2
 Chlorine dioxide is only low to moderately effective against parasites.
  • + 2
 how is reliabilty? i have had issues deep in the backcountry with filters before (katadyn). and deep in the backcountry is not where you want water filter failures.
  • + 2
 My MSR micro has been great in the backcountry up here in Onterrible. Had it for years, probably filtered a few hundred lts of water already and no complaints. I left it for one year wet, and I'm camping next week, so I'll just boil the ceramic filter for 5 minutes and I'm good to go. Highly recommend their product.

www.msrgear.com/water/miniworks-ex-microfilter

getting this one reviewed for the bike/day hikes.
  • + 0
 Seamen issues?
  • + 1
 For epic rides these are a must. A liter of water weighs a kilo. Or two pounds. Carry this filter and you save a great deal of weight. Good thing these are getting smaller and coming down in price.
  • + 1
 This is very reasonably priced. Not only could you use it for biking, but also hiking, camping and in an emergency if your car broke down and were stranded somewhere on a back road! I'll be picking one up for sure Smile
  • + 2
 Sawyer squeezer all summer long. Having to conserve your water is dumb. Filter and guzzle! I feel so much better after long rides when I drink a ton.
  • + 1
 I'm particularly fond of the MSR gravity filter system as you can set it up and walk away to go do other things. Like drink beer.
  • + 3
 Awesome I need one to go with my MSR pocket rocket.
  • + 2
 Beaver Fever, that's what you get if you drink from the streams at Mount Fromme.
  • + 1
 I carry a lifestraw, but it doesn't allow you to filter water to take with you (or at least the model I own). Love the idea of a mini pump to be able to fill a bottle.
  • + 3
 So it's a Sawyer Mini at 2x the price
  • + 3
 One Swedish penis enlarging pump....
  • + 2
 You have penis mightier? You're sitting on a goldmine!
  • + 1
 these msr filters suck. just went on a 5 day bikepacking trip and the group i was with had 2 of them and they both clogged up on the second day.
  • + 2
 If only there were streams in socal! Lol
  • + 1
 It's called tequila, people...you drink tequila. All hydration problems are solved.
  • + 0
 Sawyer Squeeze filter.... That is all you need. Cheap, works forever, easy to clean, super light... Thanks but no Thanks MSR.
  • + 1
 While I agree that the Sawyers are great, this seems to essentially be an MSR version of a sawyer filter, with a handpump. While I made a handpump for my sawyer out of a ketchup pump, the svelte package of this one is kinda nice. just not $50 nice.
  • + 3
 that looks sick
  • + 1
 Pro tip. Life straw is only $13 online and better than this overpriced pocket avacado.
  • + 1
 Can't fill your water bottle with it...
  • + 1
 @bonkywonky: If you like backwash in your bottle...yes
  • + 2
 This is a great looking product.
  • + 2
 Faucet - hahahaha
  • + 1
 Will it work in the Don Valley River in Toronto?
  • + 1
 That would be a serious accomplishment. I nominate you to test it!
  • + 1
 Trail Side D*ck Pump - for whenever you meet any Cougars on the trail.
  • - 2
 You have to clean it every 8 liters? That's kinda ridiculous
  • + 9
 Cleaning involves filling it with water and shaking it - it's not a big deal at all.
  • + 2
 Sure beats the alternative.
  • + 1
 Also, these ceramic filters only have to be cleaned when the flow rate suffers... the 8 liters thing is really dependent on how dirty the water is.
  • + 2
 I chuck coffee filter paper over the inlet held on by an elastic band. It's easier to quick swap dirty coffee filters than clean out the filter inlet.

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